Hidden Gem Restaurants Knoxville

Nestled among the scenic vistas of the Great Smoky Mountains and the vibrant streets of its urban landscape, Knoxville, Tennessee, harbors culinary treasures waiting to be discovered. Hidden Gem Restaurants Knoxville is your curated guide to the city’s most enchanting eateries, where ambiance and flavor blend to create unforgettable dining experiences. 

These secret spots, beloved by locals and adventurous foodies alike, offer a taste of Knoxville’s rich culinary diversity. From quaint cafés tucked away in historic neighborhoods to innovative kitchens pushing the boundaries of Southern cuisine, each hidden gem tells a story of passion, tradition, and culinary creativity. 

Join us as we embark on a gastronomic journey to uncover Knoxville’s most captivating dining destinations, where every meal is an adventure and every dish tells the tale of this charming city’s love affair with food.

What Food is Knoxville Famous for?

Knoxville, a gem nestled in the heart of Tennessee, offers a culinary landscape as rich and inviting as the Smoky Mountains themselves. This vibrant city is known for its distinctive flavors, blending traditional Southern cuisine with innovative twists that cater to the taste buds of both locals and travelers alike. Here’s a taste of what makes Knoxville’s food scene famously unforgettable.

Southern Comforts with a Knoxville Twist

At the heart of Knoxville’s culinary fame is its ability to take Southern comfort food to new heights. Knoxville chefs honor their roots while infusing dishes with unique flair, from fluffy biscuits smothered in creamy sausage gravy to tender, slow-cooked barbecue that falls off the bone. Don’t miss the city’s take on classics like fried chicken, which may come with a side of locally produced honey or a bowl of grits enriched with sharp cheddar and fresh herbs.

The Tomato Head’s Creative Pizzas

A Knoxville institution, The Tomato Head stands out for its inventive pizzas that feature locally sourced ingredients and combinations that push the envelope of traditional pizza making. Whether it’s a pie topped with sweet potatoes, Benton’s bacon, smoked mozzarella, or a vegetarian option bursting with seasonal veggies, The Tomato Head exemplifies Knoxville’s creative culinary spirit.

Savor the Sweetness of Knoxville’s Desserts

An exploration of Knoxville’s food scene would only be complete with indulging in its desserts. The city takes pride in its cakes and pies, often made with pecans, peaches, or apples sourced from nearby orchards. Bakeries and cafes across Knoxville serve up everything from rich, fudgy brownies to airy, delicate pastries, ensuring there’s a sweet treat to satisfy any craving.

Farm-to-Table Fare

Knoxville’s commitment to fresh, locally sourced ingredients shines in its farm-to-table restaurants. These eateries, such as Emilia and Knox Mason, offer seasonal menus that highlight the best of Tennessee’s produce, meats, and dairy. Dining at these establishments is not just a meal; it’s an experience that connects you to the land and the passionate farmers and producers who nurture it.

Craft Brews and Artisanal Cocktails

To wash down all the delicious fare, Knoxville boasts an impressive selection of craft breweries and cocktail bars. Local breweries experiment with regional ingredients to create beers that range from traditional lagers to adventurous ales infused with local honey, berries, or herbs. Meanwhile, Knoxville’s cocktail scene offers everything from Prohibition-era classics to modern concoctions that feature house-made syrups and bitters.

Whether you’re a foodie seeking the next big flavor, or simply looking for a comforting meal that feels like home, Knoxville promises an unforgettable culinary journey. So, pack your appetite and get ready to explore all the mouthwatering delights this Tennessee treasure has to offer.

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Top 10 Hidden Gem Restaurants Knoxville, Tennessee

Top 10 Hidden Gem Restaurants Knoxville

1. Pero’s On The Hill

Founded by ex-college roommates Sammy Peroulas and Chandler Goff, Pero’s is a delightful dining spot that blends Greek, Italian, and American cuisine. Set in a quaint setting, this restaurant is renowned for its vibrant live music sessions on weekends, enticing daily specials, and an irresistibly cozy patio atmosphere. Additionally, Pero’s prides itself on curating an exquisite selection of wines, spotlighting unique and lesser-known vintages for their guests to discover.

2. Chez Guevara

Chez Guevara stands as a cherished find in Knoxville, offering an enticing mix of Tex-Mex and authentic Mexican cuisine. The menu features crowd-pleasers such as the scrumptious Elvis Burrito, along with a variety of vegetarian and vegan choices, making it a welcoming spot for those following plant-based diets. This culinary oasis is sure to earn you the title of a gastronomic connoisseur among your friends after just one visit!

3. Yassin’s Falafel House

Yassin’s Falafel House is Knoxville’s undiscovered treasure, offering a genuine taste of the Mediterranean right in the heart of Tennessee. This spot is famed for its incredibly fresh falafels and hummus, likely the best you’ll ever try. Whether you’re craving their much-loved Falafel Sandwich or feeling like something a bit more substantial, like the savory Chicken Plate, you’re in for a real treat.

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4. Peter Kern Library

Previously an exclusive hidden gem, this elegant speakeasy is tucked away behind the lobby of the Oliver Hotel, with its presence only hinted at by a red light above the door. The bar’s layout is uniquely oblong, featuring a grand portrait of Peter Kern, the visionary behind this once bakery and confectionery, at one end, and a cozy gas fireplace at the other. 

Drinks are creatively listed in vintage World Book Encyclopedias, with each cocktail named after famous literary characters. It’s the perfect place for a drink, whether you’re starting your evening or winding down after exploring Market Square.

5. Sticky Rice Cafe

Every visit to Knoxville is incomplete without a meal at Sticky Rice Cafe, where Khan, the Laotian owner, offers a culinary journey with dishes crafted from the freshest ingredients that showcase her heritage.

What sets this restaurant apart is the customizable nature of its menu, allowing you to tailor each dish to your liking. Not to mention, the homemade boba tea smoothies are a must-try, coming in an array of flavors to complement your meal.

Begin your feast with unique appetizers like crispy fried chicken skin or the crab region, among various other choices. For lighter fare, the Kow Pek, consisting of handmade rice noodles in chicken broth, or the fresh Lao sandwich with cucumber, carrots, and cilantro, are delightful options.

When it comes to the main course, the selection is vast, featuring dishes such as grilled pork chops, beef lamb, and ginger chicken, each accompanied by the signature sticky rice.

6. Wild Love Bakehouse

Wild Love Bakehouse

Meg and Shaun Parrish, also the minds behind the beloved Knoxville coffee house Old City Java, pour their heart and soul into each creation,” Chang noted. Their bakehouse is famed for its croissants, a labor of love that takes four days to craft from start to finish.

The classic croissants are exceptional, but take a moment to explore the seasonal varieties,” advises Meg. “The fleeting nature of seasons makes these offerings special. From spring to fall, we focus on fruit and vegetable-centric pastries, while the cooler months inspire us to incorporate warm spices, apples, nuts, chocolate, and citrus,” Chang relayed from Meg’s insights.

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7. The Tennessean Hotel

For a long time, Knoxville’s accommodation landscape was filled with large, impersonal hotel chains offering uniform room designs. However, the landscape changed dramatically in 2017 with the debut of The Tennessean Hotel. This introduction marked a shift towards more thoughtful design, cultural richness, and enhanced dining experiences. Paying homage to its location by the 

Tennessee River, the hotel, with its 82 rooms, incorporates subtle aquatic themes. From the lobby, which sparkles with sconce lighting reminiscent of water droplets and carpets that display a water-inspired abstract design, to the sleek guest rooms adorned with large maps of the city and side tables that mimic the look of river reeds, every detail celebrates the natural beauty of its riverside setting.

8. J.C. Holdway

Prepare to be dazzled by J.C. Holdway, a culinary paradise that has food enthusiasts cheering with delight. Featuring dishes that evoke pure bliss and set taste buds into a frenzy, this establishment is a cherished gem of Knoxville.

Indulge in their delectable offerings without hesitation. Patrons can’t help but rave about their Chicken Confit and irresistible 16oz Grilled Ribeye. Take a moment to let that sink in it’s truly outstanding!. J.C. Holdway is the creation of a chef adorned with the prestigious James Beard award, promising nothing short of an extraordinary dining affair.

9. OliBea

Are you in Knoxville with a rumbling stomach and a craving for an enchanting breakfast experience? Look no further than the delightful oasis of OliBea, tucked away in the city’s bustling heart!

What sets OliBea apart as the shining star of Knoxville’s breakfast scene? It’s the tantalizing array of flavors, from the timeless Tennessee Benedict to the irresistible Cruze Farm Buttermilk Lemon Pancakes, each dish promising a symphony of tastes on your palate.

And let’s not overlook the Cheddar Herb Biscuit! Packed with house-made sausage, jalapeno jam, cheese, and scrambled egg, this creation is a direct ticket to breakfast bliss – it’s like a burst of sunshine with every mouthful.

10. The Drawing Room

Enter into a realm of refined charm and sophistication at The Drawing Room – an exquisite hideaway tucked away in Knoxville. Immerse yourself in its opulent ambiance, transporting you to an era of elegance and hospitality.

Your culinary senses will rejoice with the exquisite selection of European-inspired delicacies. Whether it’s the heavenly Alaskan Halibut or the tantalizing Blackened Angus Filet, every dish is a culinary masterpiece.

Yet, the allure doesn’t end with the cuisine. Treat yourself to expertly crafted cocktails, each a testament to the artistry of mixology.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What makes a restaurant a “hidden gem” in Knoxville?

Hidden Gem restaurant in Knoxville is characterized by its unique location, often off the beaten path, exceptional food, personalized service, and charming ambiance that might not be widely known to the public or mainstream tourists. These establishments offer a distinctive dining experience that reflects the local culture and cuisine.

How do you find hidden gem restaurants in Knoxville?

Finding hidden gem restaurants in Knoxville can be an adventure. They are usually discovered through local recommendations, social media buzz among foodies, or exploring the city’s lesser-known areas. Websites and blogs dedicated to Knoxville’s dining scene, like “Hidden Gem Restaurants Knoxville,” are also excellent resources.

Are hidden gem restaurants more expensive than other dining options?

Not necessarily. While some hidden gems may offer gourmet dining experiences that come with a higher price tag, many are affordably priced, focusing on providing value through unique dishes, quality ingredients, and a memorable atmosphere rather than luxury.

Can I make reservations at these hidden gem restaurants?

Reservation policies vary. Some hidden gems may require reservations due to their limited seating and popularity among those in the know, while others might operate on a first-come, first-served basis. It’s always best to check the restaurant’s website or call ahead to ensure you secure a spot.

What types of cuisine can I expect to find at Knoxville’s hidden gem restaurants?

Knoxville’s hidden gems boast a wide range of cuisines, reflecting the city’s diverse culinary landscape. From reimagined Southern comfort food and authentic international fare to innovative fusion dishes, these restaurants offer a taste of the world in the heart of Tennessee.

Are hidden gem restaurants suitable for special occasions?

Absolutely! Many hidden gem restaurants in Knoxville offer a cozy and intimate setting that is perfect for celebrating special occasions. Whether it’s a romantic dinner, a family gathering, or a milestone celebration, these establishments can provide a unique backdrop to make your event memorable.

How often does the list of hidden gem restaurants in Knoxville update?

The dining scene in Knoxville is constantly evolving, with new hidden gems emerging as chefs and restaurateurs introduce innovative concepts. Websites and guides like “Hidden Gem Restaurants Knoxville” regularly update their recommendations to reflect the latest and greatest in the city’s culinary offerings.

Are there any hidden gem restaurants with a view in Knoxville?

Yes, among Knoxville’s hidden gems, several restaurants offer stunning views of the cityscape, rivers, or the surrounding natural beauty. These establishments combine scenic vistas with exceptional cuisine for a truly unforgettable dining experience.


Hidden Gem Restaurants Knoxville shines a spotlight on the culinary underbelly of Knoxville, Tennessee, offering a unique glimpse into the city’s most extraordinary and lesser-known dining establishments. This guide ventures beyond the mainstream, inviting readers and food enthusiasts to explore the hidden corners of Knoxville’s gastronomic landscape. 

From the cozy nooks serving up innovative twists on Southern classics to the unassuming bistros where international flavors thrive, each featured restaurant is a testament to Knoxville’s burgeoning food scene. These hidden gems not only serve exceptional meals but also embody the spirit of the local community, offering personalized experiences that can’t be found in larger, more commercial establishments. 

Through detailed descriptions and heartfelt recommendations, Hidden Gem Restaurants Knoxville guides you to fantastic meals and tells the story of a city’s love for diverse, authentic, and passionately prepared cuisine.